Professional associations are umbrella organizations that bring people of same profession or career together mainly to protect and advance their career interests. There are ‘a million’ of them across the globe! Some that come to mind in Nigeria include: Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Association of Nigerian Medical Practitioners (ANMP), Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT), Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), etc. I asked several Nigerians what these associations stand for. Hundred percent of those asked said they fight for the right of their members. “Why do you think so?” I asked. “Because they are always going on strike because the Government won’t pay them their salaries,” they said.
Rightly, fighting for just wage, better working conditions and other benefits for their members should be part of the aims of professional associations, but not just the only reasons why they exist. I believe that protecting the integrity of their various professions should be top most in the list of their aims. I say this because no professional association can exist without the prior existence of the professions that its members profess. An example is ASUU. Had the teaching profession not existed, there would not have been professors talk less of an association of Nigerian university professors. The teaching profession, however, exists because the society has recognized and accepted it as something valuable for the advancement of humanity. However, although the society places value on each profession, those who take to a particular profession not only have to position their profession as a value to the society but also must always justify the value already placed on their profession by the society.
Without discounting the need for professional associations such as ASUU to fight for the rights of their members, it is a shame that these associations hardly fight for the integrity of their professions. As an example, the society has some expectations from professionals such as teachers. Generally, we expect teachers to teach our children properly. We expect then to grade our children fairly. We expect teachers to equip our children with the skills needed to compete with their peers in the global job market. We do not expect them to abuse or take advantage of our children. Ironically, while ASUU for instance has all the powers and resources to fight the “all powerful” Nigerian Government, when it comes to their benefits and often win the battle; it is yet to win the battle of disciplining “less powerful” members of their association dragging their noble profession to the mud.
Whether it is at IMSU or FUTO, some Nigerian professors are coming late to prescheduled classes for reasons ranging from attending a birthday party to dropping off their spouses at the airport. Whether it is at LASU or YOSU, some Nigerian professors are cancelling classes just because they have to attend a PDP or ACN meeting. From ALVAN to NASU, some Nigerian professors are taking bribes from students in exchange for an “A” grade. From UNIABUJA to UNIUYO, some Nigerian professors are sleeping with our sons and daughters just to approve their term paper or final paper topics. Like these professors, some Nigerian medical doctors, accountants, lawyers, etc, are doing worst things in the name of practicing their professions. Some Nigerian medical doctors recklessly misdiagnose and mistreat; some accountants connive with Government officials to embezzle public funds and much more. Sadly, it has not occurred to these professional bodies that they have a duty in making sure that their members practice their professions with integrity.
Does it mean that the Association of Nigerian Medical Doctors, for example, does not have the power to strip a medical doctor who negligently mistreats a patient of his medical license and going on air to tell citizens about it? Does it mean that ASUU, for instance, does not have the power to suspend a professor who takes bribe from a student in exchange for an “A” grade? Does it mean that professional associations cannot come up with enforceable policies that would prohibit a member from cooperating with any government official in any act of corruption but also ensuring that such a member will not lose his or her job by prohibiting any other member from taking up the job of a member fired for resisting corruption. That is, if the Governor, for example, fires the State Accountant General or any State accountant for not letting him embezzle State money, no other Nigerian accountant can take that position.
Imagine ASUU going on strike because the Vice Chancellor would not fire a professor that took bribe from a student. Imagine association of Certified Public Accountants going on strike because a governor fired one of them for not cooperating with him to embezzle state money. Nigerian professional associations, I tell you, if you can successfully fight our corrupt State and Federal Governments over your benefits, you can successfully fight these corrupt members of your associations.